March 23, 2017 5:35 pm
Updated: March 23, 2017 8:46 pm

Edmonton’s Ben Calf Robe school to receive $18M facelift

WATCH ABOVE: Staff and students at one Edmonton school are celebrating promised provincial renovation money. Ben Calf Robe school will get $18 million for upgrades. Staff say the money allows them to do far more than fix an old school. It's about Indigenous culture. Fletcher Kent reports.

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Educators and students at Ben Calf Robe Catholic school in north Edmonton are thrilled at news their school will receive provincial funding to modernize the facility.

“This has been hugely anticipated,” principal Rena Methuen said.

“This school is definitely in need of modernization [and] revitalization. We need to move into the 21st century. We need to create a place of hope for our children.”


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The building was built in 1941. The school provides Catholic and Indigenous education to students from pre-kindergarten to Grade 9. Announced in last week’s provincial budget, the school will receive $18 million for modernization.

The modernization will help increase the capacity of the school by 200 students. Currently the school is at 104 per cent capacity.

READ MORE: 5 new schools, 1 modernization announced for Edmonton

The Edmonton Catholic School Board said the modernization will include a ceremonial room, community space and higher ceilings to accommodate teepees.

The principal’s wish list includes modernizing the classrooms, adding another gym space and expanding the school’s cultural space.

“This is the centerpiece, the gathering of where we identify and celebrate the Indigenous culture every day,” Methuen said of the school’s culture room. “In a larger space you can celebrate the artifacts in a greater way. You can offer the drumming in a section. You can look at how the hide is dried.

“It’s exponential what could be done in a larger space celebrating the culture.”

The principal said setting up a teepee at the entrance of the school would help the students celebrate their culture. Grade 6 student Jonathan Houle also thinks it’s a great idea.

“A teepee will represent the school and every time a person can walk in, they’ll be sure to actually recognize that this will be a Cree school and make us proud about our school,” he said.

READ MORE: 30 new schools needed in next 15 years for student population boom: report

The industrial arts shop, which took over the school’s stage a few years ago, could also use expanding, Methuen said. The shop class is currently offered to junior-high students to learn things like woodwork and how to use power tools.

“This is all linked to job opportunities,” Methuen said. “So having these hands on experiences and getting our students out, expanding on where they want to go in terms of career choices, this would be very important.

“You could hire a full-timer person offering these courses,” she said. “You could expand into the other grades, including elementary. It would be wonderful to be able to do that.”

READ MORE: What’s in the Alberta budget for Edmonton? 

The school’s shop teacher sees firsthand how the students embrace and enjoy the class and would like to see it offered to even more students.

“This is a pretty small shop compared to shops that I’ve worked at in my education, but we’re blessed to have all these machines,” Josh Collins said.

“We’re limited in how many students we can have in here [per] term. I think that providing a bigger, more modern space, we’d be able to expand the program and therefore the kids would have more choice and freedom in projects that they create.”

It will take a few years before the upgrades and renovations are complete. School administrators aren’t yet sure how much of the $18 million will go towards repairs, such as fixing pipes and shingles in the school.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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